Establish and Boost Milk Supply
You wouldn’t know how your milk supply is until a few days after labour, when the colostrum turns to milk. There can be three scenarios: sufficient, inadequate or over supply of breastmilk. This post mainly addresses the first two groups, especially those of inadequate supply. Find out how you can establish and boost milk supply here.
Establish Milk Supply
(Initial) Low Milk Supply
If you are a mother with low milk supply, don’t fret! I know many mothers who worked hard to boost their milk supply and they went on to be success stories – some even latched for more than a year. They are a super hardworking bunch, trying all means to provide what they believe to be the best for their little ones – breastmilk.
Then there are those mothers who gave up breastfeeding fairly quickly because they are worried that their babies were not getting enough to drink. They feel that formula milk is a healthy alternative and thus feed it to their babies. They want their little ones to get the nutrients quick, supposedly for them to grow well.
So, should you try your best to boost your milk supply or simply feed formula milk? More about it in my next post about the “Challenges in Breastfeeding”. Get yourself well-informed and make the best choice for your baby and yourself. If you have decided that breastfeeding is the way to go, read on to find out how you can establish and boost your milk supply.
Nurse as soon as Possible
Start nursing early to stimulate breast milk production. The first two hours after birth is the best time to breastfeed. Newborns have the innate ability to breastfeed immediately, although I know of babies who need some time to learn how to latch well.
Postpone the breastfeeding session
Cases when you should consider postponing the breastfeeding session:
- Drowsy mothers and babies due to anesthesia or medications. Wait until the effect wears off as the suckling ability of the sluggish baby could have also been affected.
- Mothers who went through difficult labour might not be able to breastfeed just yet. It is advisable to wait until mummy is more rested and thus better ready to tackle breastfeeding.
I wanted to breastfeed as soon as possible and thus requested for skin to skin, where the baby would crawl from my tummy to find my breast and suckle. But right after I gave birth, I forgot to asked the NUH nurse to place her on my tummy instead of my chest.
In any case, baby Evangeline just laid still on my chest – and it was an emotional moment. I simply enjoyed the moment of warm touch and forgot about breastfeeding. Even though NUH is pro-breastfeeding, the nurse didn’t teach/remind/encourage us to breastfeed there and then.
According to Standford’s Children Health, “Placing a baby skin-to-skin on the mother’s chest or abdomen helps to keep the baby warm. This early skin-to-skin contact also reduces crying, improves mother-infant interaction, and helps mothers to breastfeed successfully.”
Baby’s cries and latch will signal your body to keep the milk production going. Hence, rooming in with your baby while in hospital is ideal. It gives you a better chance of breastfeeding success. But if it’s too difficult or tiring, you might prefer a partial room in during the day, and have your baby in the nursery at night.
Breastfeed Exclusively for first 4-6 weeks
The window to establish milk supply is the first four to six weeks. So it’s best you breastfeed exclusively during this period. You may choose to pump, but direct latch will better stimulate milk supply. I do know of mothers who, because of medical conditions, exclusively pump (EP) to feed their baby.
For feeding frequency and duration, you can refer to my ‘Breastfeeding Experience’ post.
Mixed Feeding – Latch and Bottle
If you want to pump and bottle feed, it is best to wait until your newborn master the art of breastfeeding (at least 3 weeks) before you bring out the bottle. Otherwise, bottle feeding might interfere with establishing a good demand and supply system for milk production.
Bottle feeding may or may not lead to nipple confusion, where the baby will give up breastfeeding sooner than you’d like. A reason this happens is because babies have to work harder to get milk from the breast than the bottle. However, nipple confusion does not occur as often as believed. Most babies can switch from breast to bottle and back again, some do it well from the start, others take some time.
I have friends who did occasional bottle feeding early on because latching around the clock is tiring, and their babies seem to adapt well. They have other people do the bottle feeding during the night while they latch during the day. So it’s up to you to bear the risk of nipple confusion.
Boost Milk Supply
Some mothers with good milk supply might decide that breastmilk is not superior and thus not motivated to latch or pump. They allow their milk supply to whittle. Then there are those who believe otherwise about breastmilk, and yet have very low milk supply. These mothers would try different ways to boost their milk supply and manage to do so. If you belong to latter, go read testimonies and find support in breastfeeding facebook groups (you can find the links at the end of ‘Basic Guide to Breastfeeding).
For now, I will touch on a few basic methods to boost milk so you have an idea where to start. 🙂
1) Rest and Chill
Don’t be stress and rest as much as possible. I know this is hard, especially for first time mothers. But try to sleep or rest whenever possible – sleep when your baby sleeps and let others do the job. Stress and tiredness will affect your milk supply.
2) Fluid Intake
Stay hydrated. Drink whenever you are thirsty, be it water, milk, fruit juices, etc. Since you are giving calcium to your baby, drinking milk will replenish the calcium in you.
Milk boosters are food and drinks that will boost milk supply when you consume them. Different mothers have different milk boosters that work for them. Sometimes it takes an hour to a few tries to find out if a particular food is a milk booster for you.
Red dates tea and green papaya soup usually taken during confinement period are common milk boosters. There are others I heard, such as bubble milk tea (probably it’s the milk), MILO (Made in Australia) (there’s also the Australian Recipe but made in Singapore) and Earth Mama Milkmaid Tea.
I didn’t feel much difference for the ‘others’, but for Earth Mama Tea, it seemed to work from the third sachet. My breasts felt fuller and Evangeline’s drinking session shortened.
3) Food Intake
Certain foods that you eat day to day could be your milk boosters, such as leafy vegetables, oats or salmon. If you discover any, good for you! If not, you can buy food specifically for boosting milk, such as lactation cookies. You can get them from the many sellers in Singapore.
If the above foods don’t work, you may attempt pharmaceutical methods of increasing milk supply, such as Fenugreek Seed. You can get it from iHerb (get 5% off as you click through the link or with this promo code: GSM104). You can refer to KellyMom’s suggested dosage chart for Fenugreek Seed, and of course, talk with your doctor.
4) Latch on Demand (if possible)
For the lazy me, I didn’t really find out what my milk boosters are. I simply latch on demand. Latch and feed on demand are both good ways to boost milk supply. Feed on demand instead of on schedule is generally best for breastfeeding success. And like I said earlier, delay giving the bottle until your milk supply is established.
5) Pump between Breastfeeds
If you are diligent, you can increase your milk supply by pumping between breastfeeding sessions, either 30-60 minutes after breastfeeding or at least one hour before the next session. This method is especially relevant when you first start to breastfeed. Your newborn is still a small drinker in the beginning and hence his/her latch is usually not enough to empty your breasts.
6) Drain your Breasts
When you latch or pump, drain your breasts until they feel soft again. Completely draining your breasts is like telling your body that there’s space to produce and store milk. Massage or apply heat pads on your breasts before you latch or pump. This will encourage milk flow.
Even if your breasts feel soft and empty after a breastfeed, you can still pump to signal your body to produce more milk. There’s always milk to be pumped out. If you are not pumping out much, don’t worry. You are producing more milk than you can pump out. And the baby’s suckle can actually draw out more milk to drink than you pump.
If you want to stop breastfeeding or decrease your milk supply, the opposite is true – stop pumping and stretch out the time between feedings.
Personally, I was too tired during the first month (DIY confinement) to pump between feeds. Moreover, Evangeline drank every 2 hours, and pumping would just mean non-stop action for me. So I usually feed her on one breast and at the same time drained the other one with a haakaa-like pump. I got mine as a free gift from Taobao and then cheap on Lazada. If you want the original one, you can get it from Pupsik.
I haven’t been pumping since my milk supply stabilised. She rejected bottle after 2-3 weeks of having it and so I simply latch her on demand. Although this means that in the early months, I couldn’t get away from my baby for long periods and had to feed her multiple times at night. Things are slightly better now with sleep training and solids. 🙂
p.s. This is part of JoogoStyle’s breastfeeding series.
So are you are strong believer of feeding your baby with breastmilk? Do you prefer latching or pumping? Tell me more about it in the comment box below!
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